Instead of having a journal for every subject: Math, Language Arts, History, etc. did you ever use a three-ring binder or something similar for each student with dividers breaking the subjects up into different sections? In doing this, the Montessori students still get the beginning-of-the-year experience of labeling each section (as they can do this with the dividers), and it seems less wasteful (is all the paper in spiral bound notebooks used?) and for first graders, it seems a bit easier to handle.
I did an observation in a Montessori elementary class with the various journals and found that the students’ cubbies did not have the same orderly appearance of the Montessori classroom. I realize that this is a skill that the Montessori teacher needs to guide children into. What do you think would be the drawbacks, if any, of trying the one main notebook idea? On a side note, I think I would keep separate the creative writing journal and the travel journal that my Montessori students take outside to record observations.
Montessori Student Journals: Finding the Right Fit For Your Classroom - Notebooks vs. BindersThese are good questions. Yes, I have tried using a 3-ring binder, but only in the upper elementary classroom (ages 9-12), and only for one year. Is my personal opinion that lower elementary (ages 6-9) students are not ready for the 3-ring binders mainly because the binders are big and bulky and first graders are so very small. The binders are hard to carry, they do not fit well on small laps, they take up a lot of room on floors and tables, they are hard to open and close (and pinch fingers!), they are a distraction – click, click, click, click…Imagine a calm, peaceful, Montessori work period being constantly interrupted by someone having to open a ring binder. In addition, papers are easily torn out of a 3-ring binder and then you need all those little gummed 3-hole reinforcements to be able to put the papers back in the binder. Those too, are a big distraction.
I found that using a 3-ring binder with dividers was also difficult for my Montessori upper elementary students. In addition to the above-stated reasons, papers did not always get filed right away, or arranged properly. The binders did not fit in the cubbies and had to be stored elsewhere. Binders broke. They were dropped, scattering loose papers everywhere.
Personally, I much prefer the small black and white composition books. Pages in spiral notebooks tear out too easily, the covers rip, and again, they are too large for the smaller students. Here is how I have used and divided them (with tabs) before:
- Language - divided into spelling, grammar, and reading.
- Writing – divided into journals and writing
- Science – Botany, Zoology, Matter/Astronomy
- History & Geography – History, Cultural Geography, and Physical Geography
As for the mess in cubbies, you correctly indicate this as a matter of the Montessori teacher guiding and modeling how things are to be stored in the cubby, being consistent about checking, and holding our Montessori students responsible for keeping their cubbies clean and organized.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Tuesday, July 12, 2011.